The low lying entrance to Chichester Harbour, is not easily distinguished against the backdrop of the South Downs and is bordered on both sides by extensive drying banks; West Pole, Middle Pole and East Pole Sands, the latter extending more than a mile seaward. A deep-water channel running between these banks to the Harbour entrance is interrupted by a bar joining West to Middle Pole and East Pole Sands, this mobile feature varies in position and height and is periodically dredged to maintain a charted depth of 1.5 metres. The width of the dredged channel across the Bar is a little less than 200 yards. 

Vessels approaching the Harbour from the west are advised to shape a course for West Pole Beacon 50º 45′.45 N, 00º 56′.59 W. On rounding the Beacon aim to pass between Eastoke Buoy and West Winner Beacons leaving the Bar Beacon 50º 46′.023 N, 00º 56′.380 W, close to port. When approaching the Harbour from the east, mariners are advised not to cross the 5 metre contour until West Pole Beacon bears 310º T. On reaching the beacon shape a course for the Harbour entrance keeping the Bar Beacon close to port. 

Chichester Bar is normally dredged to approximately 1.5m below chart datum giving a depth of 2m, at MLWS. However, through gradual accretion and after severe gales the bottom can vary markedly and it is then prudent to assume a least depth of 0.8 metres below Chart Datum. Mariners should be aware that ebb tides in the entrance to the Harbour can attain a rate of up to 6 knots on springs. With a falling tide and strong winds from a southerly sector a dangerous sea may be encountered. In these conditions it is advisable to exercise caution and cross the bar between three hours before and one hour after HW springs. In very strong winds entry should not be attempted.

A survey of Chichester Bar was completed May 2023 showing a least depth of 1.3m below Chart Datum.

Please check the Local Notices to Mariners for recent changes.

The speed limit throughout the Harbour is 8 knots.